Mike Mills’s Beginners was a festival and art house hit — a poignant and charming drama, based on the filmmaker’s own life, about a man (Ewan McGregor) whose elderly father (Christopher Plummer) comes out as gay after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
In terms of film history, however, Beginners — which opened in theaters 10 years ago on June 3, 2011 — will be best remembered as the movie that earned beloved acting vet Plummer his first and only Academy Award. Plummer, who was 82 at the time and (and who died earlier this year at the age of 91), became the oldest Oscar-winning actor ever, until that record was supplanted by Anthony Hopkins in April when the 83-year-old scored the Best Actor statuette for The Father.
In a 2016 Role Recall interview with Yahoo Entertainment (watch above, with Beginners beginning at 4:25), McGregor shared fond memories of his experience preparing to shoot the film with the famed Sound of Music star, who continued working into his 90s and had late-career hits like 2017’s All the Money in the World (in which he famously replaced Kevin Spacey and scored another Oscar nomination) and 2019’s Knives Out.
“Mike Mills has got a very wonderful way of rehearsing. We don’t really touch the script very much,” McGregor explained. Instead, in the interest of “relationship building,” Mills sent McGregor and Plummer to a popular Los Angeles department store where the assignment was to pick out a scarf for the latter, whose character, Hal, often wore them.
Plummer, however, apparently wasn’t big on homework.
“We got to this department store and I was wearing black skinny jeans and he was like, ‘What are those?’ And I said, ‘They’re just jeans, Christopher.’ And he went, ‘They’re very tight.’ I said, ‘Well, they’re skinny jeans.’
“And Christopher totally took off. I keep going over like, ‘Christopher, we should go and look at the scarves.’ But he was flirting with a shop assistant about the jeans and started trying on skinny jeans. And I kept trying to get him to go over to the scarves and he just wasn’t having it.”
Plummer, who McGregor says didn’t have any money on him at the time, was all about the skinny jeans.
So in the end … I bought him a pair of skinny jeans and I just grabbed a scarf on the way out and just gave them the $200 for the scarf,” McGregor said, laughing. “I don’t think I was ever reimbursed for his jeans.”
Stream Beginners on Amazon Prime.
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